McGrady, Manheimer at odds over HB2 repeal

ASHEVILLE - Western North Carolina lawmakers quarreled on social media Tuesday over support of a bill poised to repeal HB2.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, took to Twitter and Facebook to say he had garnered the support of several individuals and organizations, including Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, for House Bill 186, known to many as the "compromise bill." The legislation keeps in place some limits on the ability of local governments to pass nondiscrimination ordinances.

The bill, of which McGrady is a sponsor, has the support of some Democrats but has been shunned by many LGBT and civil rights organizations.

McGrady said Manheimer and groups including the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce "asked explicitly to be mentioned for their support of the bill."

Manheimer, however, said she never lent her name to the cause.

"I am opposed to HB186 in its current form," she said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I would encourage the two sides to keep talking."

Manheimer, who is running for re-election, said she is focused on how the bill impacts cities and doesn't favor the way it limits their authority to pass nondiscrimination ordinances.

"This referendum position is specifically aimed at a very small number of people being able to take away the civil rights of another group of people, and that's wrong," she said.

The mayor issued a statement last week offering no official position on the bill, other than to say that it was a "good first step."

“Obviously a full repeal would be preferred, just a simple full repeal, but it doesn’t appear that is in the cards at this point," Manheimer said Tuesday. "There are a million different ways to do this, and we haven’t seen anything that works yet.”

In her statement posted Feb. 23 on the city of Asheville's blog, the mayor said she appreciated the efforts of McGrady and his colleagues "to identify a bipartisan solution that will bring back our conventions, sporting events and further our job recruitment efforts."

She replied to McGrady on Twitter with a link to her statement. She told the representative, "I don't support the bill as is, but I support continued discussions."

McGrady gave a puzzling reply on the social media site. "Lol. I think what you say is true for one or more of the primary cosponsors."

Later in a text message he sent to the Citizen-Times during a meeting of House Republicans, McGrady said he had discussed the bill with Manheimer.

"Nothing Mayor Manheimer said is new. I've talked to her. I know she says H186 has helped provide a basis for negotiations, but she can't support the bill as is," he wrote. "Okay, then H186 is a step forward. Before the bill was filed, there was no bipartisan way forward. Now there is."

Asked how Manheimer's name made it on his list, the representative replied, "Talk to her."

"I suspect she's gotten a lot of pressure to move off of her position," he said. "It is the same sort of pressure that the governor is putting on the Democratic cosponsors of the bill."

Staff in McGrady's office said Rep. John R. Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, prepared the list of names and partner organizations released in the statement.

Anita Spence, legislative assistant for Bradford, said she was looking into how Manheimer's name made the cut.

The representative was asked to compile a list submitted by others, Spence said.